Located right along the waters on the “mainland” side of Sturgeon Bay, the Door County Maritime Museum offers four galleries showcasing model ships, shipwrecks, lighthouses, the shipbuilding companies in the region, and an in-water exhibit of the restored tug John Purves from 1919, which was restored in the 1960s and continued to serve until 2000. You can use a submarine periscope to spy on Bay Shipbuilding across the bay (the largest in the area) as they busily build more ships. The museum is right next to the historic Steel Bridge, which opened in the 1930s and served as the only road connection across the bay for four decades, taking Highway 42 and 57 between southern and northern Door. Today, the Oregon Street bridge provides another downtown connection while the mainline 42 and 57 use the bypass bridge a mile to the east.
The Door County Maritime Museum is open year ’round, although tug tours of the John Purves are only available from May through October (that water gets old in those other months, you know.) Admission is $13 for adults, $10 for kids 5-17, and free for kids 4 and under, although the tug tour for the little ones will run $6.
120 N. Madison Street
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
(920) 743-5958 Website
Anchoring Two Rivers’ historic district, Historic Rogers Street Fishing Village showcases the long and colorful history of Two Rivers’ commercial fishing industry – the longest such history of any city on the Great Lakes. Calling commercial fishing “America’s most dangerous profession,” this complex offers an incredible look at the 175+ years of history, techniques, boats, and even shipwrecks (hence the “dangerous”) while offering the chance to climb the North Pier Lighthouse, built in 1886.
Rogers Street Fishing Village features a museum, the original 1936 tugboat Buddy O that you can climb on and explore, a French-Canadian-style fisherman’s home, original 19th century engines, boardwalks and plenty of artifacts.
Speaking of shipwrecks, the waters in Lake Michigan just off Two Rivers have had their share and you can see actual remnants of ships like the Vernon (which sank in 1887) and the Rouse Simmons (which sank in 1912) that were recovered and are now on display… right down to gauges from the ship and photos of the deceased – it gets real. Native American murals and artifacts also explore the era prior to European arrival in the area.
The Francis Hinton sank in 1909; you can see the windlass recovered from the steamer, among other amazing pieces from sunken ships, inside the Rogers Street Fishing Village Museum.
You’ll find Rogers Street Fishing Village just off Highway 42 in Two Rivers, near the endpoints of Highways 147 and 310, bordering the East Twin River. The museum is open from mid-May through mid-October.
Historic Rogers Street Fishing Village Address:
2102 Jackson Street
Two Rivers, WI 54241
(920) 793-5905 Website
Since Manitowoc is “Wisconsin’s Maritime Capital” (even one of the high schools has the nickname “Shipbuilders”), it’s only fitting that the Wisconsin Maritime Museum would be located in the city. Holding one of the nation’s most extensive collections of Great Lakes maritime artifacts and history, the museum prominently features the USS Cobia, a World War II submarine similar to the ones manufactured in the city. The Cobia is permanently berthed in the river and can not only be toured, but kids and parents can bunk down for overnight stays during monthly events!
Other exhibits include the Children’s Waterways Room, the Maritime History Gallery, an Aquatic Species Investigation Lab, and “Treasures of NOAA’s Ark”, which offers a look at Wisconsin’s underwater treasures. The museum is a big part of the effort to turn the Lake Michigan coast from Port Washington to Two Rivers into a national marine sanctuary.
Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for children ages 6-15, and free for kids 5 and under. Other discounts are available for military, AAA members, senior citizens, and families.
The museum’s hours vary by season:
• Spring (Mid March – June): 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
• Summer (July – August): 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
• Fall (September – October): 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
• Winter (November – Mid March): ◦Weekdays: 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
◦ Saturday – Sunday: 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
They are closed New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
75 Maritime Drive
Manitowoc, WI 54220
(920) 684-0218 Website